UK Fails to Protect Menopausal Women in Workforce, Lawmakers’ Committee Says

By | January 24, 2023

The UK is failing to address menopausal discrimination in the workforce, an issue that led to women quitting their jobs due to a lack of employer support, a committee of lawmakers said.

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes criticized the government response to a report by the Women and Equalities Committee, which she chairs, saying she was “disappointed” that the government was not planning to introduce new initiatives to further safeguard women in the workforce.

“This is a missed opportunity,” said Nokes in a letter to the Minister for Women Maria Caulfield published on Tuesday. “The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women’s needs, yet Government progress has been glacial and its response complacent.”

Menopause Discrimination Cases Are Rising in UK Employment Courts

The report, published in July last year, was carried out to think of solutions to help women who have struggled to manage menopausal symptoms at work. One in 10 women who worked during the menopause left a job due to their symptoms, which range from brain fog and loss of sleep to depression, according to a survey last year by gender equality charity the Fawcett Society.

They can be so debilitating that it has a bigger impact on women’s careers than anything else except having children. But the law as it stands “does not serve or protect” menopausal women, according to the committee’s findings, which included accounts of “widespread” discrimination related to menopause in the workplace.

The government rejected several of the committee’s recommendations, including making menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, with reasons including that the characteristics of “sex, age, and disability” should protect against unfair treatment of employees based on menopause. It also said singling out menopause could have unintended consequences, such as discriminating against men with long-term health conditions.

The government last year published a Women’s Health Strategy for England, a ten year commitment to tackling disparities such as women spending more of their lives in ill health or with disabilities than men. The government has also established the UK Menopause Taskforce, which has not met since Parliament’s summer recess last year, accordig to Nokes’ letter.

“For too long women have faced stigma, shame and dismissive attitudes when it comes to menopause,” said Nokes in the statement, adding that she is “unconvinced that menopause is a government priority.”

Photograph: The time of 12:20 pm shows on Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

Topics Legislation

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